Archive for the ‘Marketing Trends’ Category

HubSpot in Higher Ed: Lessons from the Classroom Part II

May 10, 2017

Title Again

Introduction

In my last post, Lessons from the Classroom, Pt. 1, I shared the journey for the Inbound in the Integrated Marketing Framework as it was unfolding, leading up to and through the first half of the semester, with all the twists and turns on the way of what truly is a different type of applied learning experience in the college classroom.

As I write this, the semester has just come to a close and I just submitted the final grades. I apologize for this posting’s length (it’s long!), but I thought it would be best to offer up the full story here for all those who have an interest in the second part of this adventure in marketing education.

The Good News!!!

First off, I am happy to report that the class as whole rose to the challenge and built out the content offers and conversion paths to meet the requirements of the Practicum component of the HubSpot Software Certification process!!!, including:

  • 400 identified Keywords targeting six (6) Student Personas
  • Four (4) Content Offers
  • Optimized Landing Pages, Calls-to-Action, Forms, and Thank You Pages and More
  • Over 30 Blog Posts
  • A constant stream of Social Posts
  • E-mail campaigns
  • 30% Conversion Rates
  • And more!

I am honored to be one of the first professors to have had this opportunity to partner with HubSpot and create for students a timely and relevant learning experience like this— one that offers some of the top marketing and communications students in the country the opportunity to not only work hands-on with current tools on the leading edge of marketing today, but also to develop a full blown Inbound campaign and earn a HubSpot’s professional software certification.

In this case, the client SafeRide can be considered a start-up seeking to differentiate itself in its own unique way, in a crowded space. They had no social presence, or established user base to work from. It’s all new. A blank canvas as it were.

It is now clear that this partnership or what I would call “hybrid” model can inject a higher level of responsiveness to the college level marketing curriculum in a manner that supports and enhances it, while also giving students practical high-value skills they can use to advance their careers immediately — one of our core goals.

The students that took this course by definition are “Pioneers,” or Early Adopters, of this hybrid style of education. Each and every one of them deserves to be called out for taking the risk and helping chart a new direction for education moving forward.

Here they are:

  • Hantzley Audate
  • Lindsey Di Costa
  • Max Fallows
  • Milo Goodman
  • Sam Ho
  • Amber Hughes
  • Kennedy Kelley
  • Nick Kitsos
  • Catalina Nguyen
  • Paige Niler
  • Emily Schnider
  • Jamie Wong

To all of them, my undying thanks for going on this ride.

And I also have to call out HubSpot’s Isaac Moche, Education Partner Program Manager, and Jon Gettle, Consultant Extraordinaire, one more time. Isaac has delivered unwavering support to the project since the beginning, and Jon’s two (2) class visits were transformative, as noted in Part I.

This experience will serve as the backbone for a curriculum guide that we will be producing, so others can adopt this program into their classes and offer up this high value opportunity to their students too!

Feel free to reach out to me through LinkedIn if you have any questions or are interested in getting the guide when completed.

And lastly, I want to recognize Dr. Brenda Wrigley, Department Chair, Marketing Communications at Emerson College, named by USA Today as one of the “Top 5 Marketing Programs in the US.” Without her vision, leadership and support, none of this would have come to pass.

The other piece of good news, is that this class is being offered to students again, in the Fall of 2017.

Bumps on the Road…

Since HubSpot Software Certification is a two (2) step process, it is essential that students, as in this case, 1. complete the Practicum requirements as a team, and 2. take the HubSpot Software course and pass their administered test, individually. Each student has to pass the test on their own first, and then submit the class’s collective Practicum achievements to HubSpot on their own in order to earn HubSpot Software Certification. This time around, the due date for taking and passing the test was the official last day of class. At that point 6 out of 12 had passed.

Students have to do their work through the client’s HubSpot portal as Authorized Users on the account, so students are also required to submit the required Practicum “achievements” through the client company’s portal. I didn’t realize at the outset and see now that the client should not and cannot be expected to carry student users once the semester ends.

In the end, it looks like nine (9) out of twelve (12) students have taken and passed the certification course and are therefore entitled and allowed to submit Practicum for full certification. Two (2) certifications have already been processed and awarded, with more to come.

I found that I had to work with SafeRide to extend the deadline for one (1) week to make sure every student has the opportunity to do this. It is clear now that the Practicum is an all consuming event and that having the deadline of taking and passing the Certification Test along with Practicum at the end of semester assignment is unrealistic.

I am addressing this disparity in the Course Design Recommendations section below.

Lessons Learned…

Now that we have gotten this out of the way, I thought it is would be useful for those of you who are Marketing Professors (Grad or Undergrad), Marketing Students or just plain interested to share lessons learned.

1. The Work

First off. This is an applied, hands-on course. It’s intense! There are individual and team components. In the final analysis, however, it comes down to doing the work. This is inescapable and can’t be understated.

There really is nowhere for students to hide when it comes to going through the Practicum process AND doing the work. It’s a team effort and everyone needs to contribute.

2. Culture Matters

As I also talked about in Part I, becoming conscious of Culture is one reason I embrace the “flipped” learning method, and giving students the full responsibility to “own” the project. It is so clear that for full learning value, students have to figure this stuff out on their own to really get it, and to understand for themselves how to function at their full potential in a world as the young, confident and competent professionals they are.

This is especially important if they are to function at a high level in a world where very often they are simply given a business problem to solve, or a goal to achieve, and expected to do it, and do it well. Some call this getting thrown in “the deep end of the pool,” and the best ones come up for air and figure it out… fast.

This was especially manifest clear during the final push to get the Content Offers and Conversion Paths operational. In typical form, some of the Content Offers were, for no real fault of anyone’s, late. Some of the deliverables that were built by students earlier in the semester, and which the Conversion Path Team assumed were ready to go, were not, and so on.

This meant that everyone in the class needed take an “all hands on deck,” and “get it done NOW” posture. The students that rose to the occasion, and a number of them did, wound up finding and internalizing this “whatever it takes” spirit, and in doing so transformed themselves from talented students into A-Players and even Rock Stars. These folks are now able to bring this spirit into the Culture of the organizations they go on to work for or with.

They also now know that in fact A-Players like to work with other A-Players, and Why!

By the way I am firm believer, and my teaching life has confirmed that A-Players are not born, but learn to be, and that one of our roles as educators is to be on the lookout for and use transformational learning opportunities to guide this development. And as I saw time and again, there can be no doubt that a class like this will reveal them.

3. Course Design Adjustments

In relation to the course design—as I shared in Part I of this post—I adopted what I would call “free-form” approach to the design that was organized around the Practicum as the central pillar. Taking lessons learned, below are some of the adjustments to the course design I will be making for course next Fall.

First, I learned that it is very important to get everyone up to speed with Inbound and HubSpot right from the start, and set aggressive deadlines in the first weeks.

A. Inbound Certification Course

This provides the conceptual Inbound Methodology and Framework and all students need to have this under their belts right from the start.

  • Watch Course Videos
  • Take Test
  • Pass Test
  • Submit Proof

For: Everyone

Assigned: Week #1

Due: Week #3

B. HubSpot Software Certification Course

This provides tactical and tool-based knowledge that we learned students need earlier in the semester, both to better address tackling the Practicum requirements, and prevent students from having to cram for the test at the end of an intense Inbound campaign execution process.

  • Watch Course Videos
  • Take Test
  • Pass Test
  • Submit Proof

For: Everyone

Assigned: Week #1

Due: Week #7

NOTES:

  • Week seven (7) represents the midway point of Emerson’s 14-week semester.
  • Taking AND passing the test at this time can serve as a required midterm “test.”

C. Persona, Content Offer, Landing Page, Call-to-Action Activities, and Assignments

To extract maximum value, each and every student needs to not only go through the course, but also “get their hands dirty” with the HubSpot tools themselves. I will also be embedding these individual assignments and activities in the first half of the semester.

Pt. 1. Personas and Content Offer

Students will be given the assignment to define personas and suggestions for possible content offers (with titles): ToFu (Top of Funnel), MoFu (Middle of Funnel), and BoFu (Bottom of Funnel). Sorry for the jargon!

Due: Week #3

NOTEs:

  • These will be shared in class, and the best suggestions voted upon.
  • Content Offer mini-teams will be established to create them, with deadlines set by them.
  • Other functional teams aligned with Practicum begin here.
  • Program Management/Weekly Reports begin on Week #4.

Pt. II. Landing Page, Call-to-Action with Form and Thank You Pages

Each student will be tasked to with building a Landing Page, Call -To-Action with Form, and Thank You Page all on within HubSpot.

Due: Week #5

NOTE: This assignment is core to the “Flip” and will also set up the HubSpot expert’s in-class visit. Students will share their work and the Guest will be available to review the work, and address any questions or issues that students have been struggling with.

D. Program Management

All marketing professionals know the value and apply program management to the work we do, as a matter of course. In this context, it was amazing to watch students to respond to this need and figure out how to organically bring a sense of stability and order, organically. It took a while, but in retrospect, would be useful to call out and speed up.

In the end, one highly gifted student rose to the challenge and took the lead to develop a Project Tracker using Google Sheets (spreadsheet), which was open and available to everyone in the class. She also assumed the Project Management function organically and was shared with another Rock Star, whose job then was to align and optimize the key words and then post the content.

Program Management to Begin Week #4 or thereabouts.

Features Include:

  • Use to foster Cross Team Collaboration.
  • Breaking down the class into Functional Teams Organized by Practicum
  • Use to Highlight Weekly Work Updates and Reviews with Full Class
  • Apply Discovery Meeting Style with “Show and Tell” by all
  • Define Assign & Track Weekly Progress and Accountability
  • Use Tracker to Organize Project

Please feel free to reach out for more information on course design.

Final Thoughts

The first time with a new course like this always poses some challenges and risks for the professor, and there clearly have been many all along the way, which I have done my best to share with you.

There also is no doubt that marketing and communications are undergoing a digital transformation, and an (r)evolution that is moving very fast.

This presents colleges and universities today with the not insignificant challenge of offering current and relevant learning experiences in a time of transformation and change.

So can this type of partnership or hybrid model work collaboratively with the status quo of the curriculum? And does the combination of the two yield a meaningful result for students?

It’s clear to me that hybrid courses like this represent the future of marketing education, and offer one (1) path to solve this synthesis that is both timely and relevant. This class has proven to me without doubt that hybrid courses can be designed to magnify the best of both… a tried-and-true curriculum that provides the foundation, context and frameworks, together with hands-on learning and application of latest and greatest tools all applied to solve a real world business problem.

Here is what some of the students say…

I really love that we were able to dive into the software and that no features were off-limits… this is the only class where I genuinely feel I’ve gained job-ready knowledge and skills in one semester. I’m proud to have this program on my resume and in cover letters. – Paige Niler

My favorite part of the project was learning how to use the HubSpot software and then immediately going to the tools and figuring out how to create content and pages with my own writing and edited work. – Emily Schnider

It really gave me confidence in my ability to use what I’ve previously learned and frame it in ways that have enabled me to succeed. – Catalina Nguyen

I’m really pleased that I was able to learn to use every aspect of the software in this project, as I’m sure this will apply to my future marketing career. – Milo Goodman

The hands-on nature of using HubSpot, particularly with this class, was extremely liberating in terms of working with a client and a classroom environment. – Amber Hughes

My perspective on marketing has changed after taking this course. I used to see inbound as a way to support outbound but now I see them both as equally important when doing an integrated marketing campaign. – Lindsey Di Costa

Before, I was so focused on outbound because that’s what was taught to us. With inbound, we can do more with less and it’s a game changer. – Hantzley Audate

Teacher’s Thoughts…

The process was by no means perfect. And there is no doubt that some students gave more to the project than others, and got more out of it as a result. Every student got a new sense of the possibilities ahead of them, and experienced (or not) for themselves what it takes to make it so.

Many who were initially reluctant or intimidated, jumped in with the help of Jon Gettle’s strategic visits in particular, and in doing so transformed themselves from students who were used to external guidance and spoon fed projects, into real A-Players, adopting a “get it done no matter what” mind-set to overcome each and every obstacle thrown their way.

And some of Rock Stars emerged as well, students who were able to pull it all together and “drive the bus” and lead, without prompting from me. Totally awesome!

This happened right in front of my eyes, which is one of the fundamental reasons we as teachers do it.

The bottom line is that each member of the class overall has been offered the opportunity to enter the workplace HubSpot Software Certified. Most will make it, and in doing so will benefit by a low supply of trained talent and large demand by companies and agencies that need their newly minted HubSpot talents, fine-tuned marketing skills, and professional work ethic.

So to address the question again is, is this “hybrid” type of course worth doing? Yes!

Would (and will) I do it again? Yes!

And do I encourage other professors to bring partner with HubSpot to bring HubSpot Software Certification into their curriculum? Yes! Without reservation.

Final Comments to the Students of MK371… 

You are pioneers. Who else would be willing to sign up for a brand new 4-hour class from noon to 4:00 pm on a Friday afternoon? You are all also trendsetters and I am truly grateful to you for taking this course on.

You have not only turbo charged your skills and opened a whole new set of opportunities for yourselves, you have also helped light up the path for a different approach to marketing education that will in no small measure benefit other students that most surely will follow in your big footsteps.

Supporting Materials

If you are a professor considering an Inbound course for either the undergraduate or graduate level, and have any questions, by all means reach out. I am happy to share what I have learned to help spread the word.

I invite you to check out the Course Wrap Up deck, and the Know Your Rights Guide, one of the awesome evergreen content offers developed by this team to give you an idea of what students at this level are capable of.

I will also be happy to share my revised syllabus for next semester with all the adjustments noted in this article. Again feel free to reach out to me through LinkedIn or at randy_harrison@emerson.edu, and I will send you a copy later this spring/summer.

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HubSpot in Higher Ed: Lessons from the Classroom Part I

May 9, 2017

Inbound Blog

Emerson College HubSpot and SafeRide come together to pioneer a unique, hands on learning experience… Including the opportunity to earn full HubSpot Software Certification.

Introduction

We are halfway through the semester of our first full blown Inbound Course at Emerson College in Boston entitled Inbound in the Integrated Marketing Framework in partnership with HubSpot and client SafeRide/WalkSafe.

At this point I can say with certainty that this has been one of the most exhilarating, scary and exciting classes I have ever taught over these past 15 years, with the positives making the ride worthwhile even before the semester is over.

That said, and with this halfway milestone reached, this seems to be a good time to share what we have learned so far with anyone interested in HubSpot and Inbound, including Academia – Students, Faculty and Administration or anyone who may want or be looking to bring Inbound and HubSpot into their academic environments.

THE Mission…

The core missions of this partnership are to:

1. Provide students a hands-on experience with HubSpot tools on behalf of a live client, in this case a ride sharing security app called SafeRide/WalkSafe (now a HubSpot customer as a direct result of this project), and

2. Offer students access to the HubSpot Software Certification course and the opportunity to earn HubSpot Software Certification, which is traditionally only available to HubSpot customers.

It is clear HubSpot views its relationship with the academic community as a partnership, all predicated on the open source creed of “information wants to be free.” Info Libre!

As one of the top ranked marketing programs in the country, Emerson is outstanding in offering students the core foundational and customer-centric skills in marketing and communications. HubSpot is the leader in Inbound.

The outcome of this partnership can be considered a “hybrid” to a traditional marketing course. In this case, students are offered an applied learning experience using the “latest and greatest” digital marketing tools to produce tangible business results for a real client, coupled with the college’s core competency of providing students context and strategy in the framework of Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC), and exerting influence in any and all customer touch points from product development all the way through the product lifecycle.

What led my personal teaching journey to this place is the quest to expand learning opportunities around B2B and Direct Marketing, and how it all connects to the digital transformation we are experiencing at an accelerated pace today.

With this hybrid educational model in play, students are offered the opportunity to learn and earn HubSpot Software Certification in a manner that works in parallel with and complements Emerson’s robust Marketing Communications curriculum, while opening up new internship and career tracks leading to well-paying jobs right away, for those that are so inclined.

A Hybrid Model for Education: What We Have Learned To Date

Overall there are three (3) high-level learnings I have been able to take away from the teaching the course so far:

1. The students are, in this context, classic early adopters and naturally digital savvy. Their participation indicates a real hunger for the opportunity to work with latest and greatest technology in a real world setting. Word-of-mouth around campus for this course, which currently takes place on a Friday afternoon for four (4) hours, is strong and demand is growing.

2. From the college’s point of view, this experiment clearly opens the door to develop leadership in terms of the transformation of the ever faster changing marketing and communications landscape in a manner that supports and works off of the traditional curriculum at the same time.

3. This “hybrid” model works and can indeed open the door for other institutions and other marketing professors of all stripes to offer similar opportunities to their students.

Course Mechanics: Seven (7) Steps So Far…

Step #1: Certification Courses

There are two (2) certifications that we sought to integrate into this Inbound course:

A. Inbound Certification Course

Inbound Certification reviews the basics of Inbound including the Methodology and “Buyers’ Journey.”

This course is free to anyone. I found that it is essential that every student take and pass the high level Inbound Certification course immediately. I would now allocate a maximum of two to three (2 – 3) weeks for students to complete, and pass the test!

B. HubSpot Software Certification Course & Practicum

The HubSpot Software Certification Course is broken down into two (2) components:

1. The Video Course and associated test, administered by HubSpot; and

2. The thirteen-part practicum, which is all done on HubSpot though a Customer Portal.

Originally when I set up the course calendar, I allocated the full semester for students to complete the HubSpot Course itself, as well as take and pass the test.

All of us realized early on that the videos are themselves the primer on the tools, and since they are aligned with the practicum, watching the whole course provides essential information students need right from the start, and as such, be experienced at a high level by students, much, much sooner.

In response, I broke things up and assigned watching the whole course a 1st half of the semester activity, with the deep dive and passing of the test a full semester assignment. I will zip this up even faster next time. Lesson learned!

Step #2: The Kickoff

I am very lucky in this regard in that Emerson is located in Boston, right in HubSpot’s backyard of Cambridge, Massachusetts. This afforded us the opportunity of kicking the course and semester off with an offsite visit at HubSpot’s offices. The kickoff included a tour and overall presentation, as well as a meet-and-greet with HubSpot recruiters and Emerson Alum HubSpotters.

A couple of things for non-Boston area professors to consider.

Isaac Moche and the HubSpot Academy team put together two (2) great tools you need to be aware of which can be used to create your own course kick-off even if you are not in the Boston area:

1. A great Project Kickoff Deck with links to the HubSpot Academy and relevant resources drawn from the Academy’s robust suite of materials. The scope and scale of this content can be overwhelming!, so these links coupled with the Practicum are a great and necessary starting place for students.

This element is important in that it does a great job of defining the opportunity, the “what’s in it for me” as well. As we all know, there is literally zero (0) unemployment in this sector of marketing right now, and students who earn certification and possess soft professional skills can be assured of well paying job opportunities ahead.

Simply put HubSpot, and the HubSpot ecosystem of Agencies and Customers need high quality talent that can hit the ground running.

2. Direct Track to HubSpot HR and both the Job and Internship Recruiter Teams, with an associated checklist of what HubSpot and its partners are looking for, along with a live mini-resume review. The students loved this.

3. Don’t forget Culture! I used to pooh-pooh culture until I got in the tech space way back when. Culture and understanding both how it works and learning what is expected are essential, along with, of course, how to surpass expectations too. HubSpot’s Culture deck is a great tool in this regard and one can argue that its core characteristics apply in any company today.

Step #3: Project Brief

I put together a Project Brief that is mapped against the practicum, which itself is mapped against the HubSpot Software Certification Course chapters. Feel free to reach out to me through LinkedIn if you would like a copy.

A couple of things to note:

1. HubSpot Software Certification with the associated practicum is, by definition, a real-world and applied learning experience, not an imitation! This is part of what makes this type of class so exciting.

Remember too that HubSpot Certification requires working with a client that is a HubSpot customer with an active portal. Students get access to HubSpot and the Academy as “assigned users” through the Portal.

2. In the academic setting, one ideal client would the school itself. This way HubSpot can serve as the platform for using authentic student generated content to attract and convert a variety of constituencies and focused on a variety of objectives from enrollment and alumni fundraising and mentorships and much, much more.

3. The practicum requires some real results from live campaigns. In order to have the time to meet these criteria, I broke the semester in to three (3) pieces: 1. “playing” and hands-on learning; 2. building on HubSpot all the necessary content offers and campaign elements; and 3. going live and adjusting based on results.[10]

It will be fun to see what happens when we go live somewhere around week 9 or 10 in the semester.

Step #4. Flipped and the Learning Power of Being in the Deep End of the Pool

I have found that in an applied learning environment, the “Flipped” learning approach works very, very well, and is the core of the first phase of a course like this.

The idea is simple.

Once the Kickoff (Step #2) has taken place and the Project Brief (Step #3) distributed, students are granted user access by SafeRide to the HubSpot Portal and the Tools, and then given the instruction to “figure it out” to make sense of it all… you can say they are literally thrown in the “deep end” of the pool, just like real life.

In this phase, I see my role as the Facilitator. This period went on for the first five (5) weeks of the class.

During this time, students asked all sorts of questions and tried to lean on me to provide structure, to set up deadlines and milestones besides what I already provided, for example. I declined.

Some asked me how do they manage the project? Again, I declined, and asked in return “what do you think you need to do?”

And others asked about specific problems like how do I set up say a Landing Page? My answer… Google It (HubSpot Landing Page).

This part of the process is crucial!

Students need to grapple with and attempt on their own to figure it out. Some were clearly intimidated. Some afraid. Now the controls are in their hands, and no doubt about it, learning a new set of tools on the fly like this, is by definition, scary.

Will these talented juniors and seniors rise to the challenge?

Step #5: Inbound Expert In-Class Visit #1

Fortunately I have been through this before and believe in the power of today’s students to rise to any challenge. The first time we brought HubSpot into one of my classes in the Spring of 2014, the students were frustrated, angry and upset at this point of the project. I was getting all sorts of e-mails(!), and was, quite frankly concerned what would happen.

I was very lucky in that I had scheduled one of HubSpot Academy’s amazing instructors, Lindsay Thibeault, to come in and address their concerns after struggling with building, in this case, Landing Pages and Calls To Action.

All I can say is it was magic! Over a period of an hour and a half, students’ frustration and fear transformed into confidence and certainty… “We can do this!” You could see it and feel it happen. Extraordinary!

That was then, and the question now was could it happen again?

This time around we were lucky to have HubSpot Consultant extraordinaire Jon Gettle come in to an equally emotionally charged class, and the results?

Here are some student comments:

Jon is an absolute HubSpot ninja. He knew exactly what we were getting at even when we felt lost with the software and the direction Inbound needed. Jon expertly broke down the complexities into something we could immediately implement and feel comfortable working with. — Emily Schnider

He explained the concepts and software in terms that were easy to understand, and that made a big difference. — Milo Goodman

We would make things harder and more complicated on ourselves, but Jon put us in check by letting us know that we need to take a step back, take a breather, and focus. We feel good about the direction everything is going now. 🙂 — Catalina Nguyen

Jon is a great resource that bridges the gap between HubSpot and the class. It’s beyond helpful to have a living, breahting HubSpot resource in the classroom to address any roadblocks and troubleshooting we have. — Amber Hughes

Jon was really knowledgeable about the inbound stuff, and knew where we weren’t doing well and where we were doing well. He helped us with landing pages and keywords, and overall added to the HubSpot process. — Jamie Wong

HubSpot is not just marketing, it is life, it deals with the same principles and understanding of the world! — Nick Kitsos

He was also able to connect with us and was VERY effective with his analogies. HE CAN TALK WITH THE YOUTH! “The juice is not worth the squeeze.” — GENIUS! — Hantzley Audate

As the Q&A with Jon progressed, it became clear that the path ahead was do’able and not out of reach. You could actually see and hear the energy of the students change as the visit progressed as frustration and struggle turned into the “we can (and will!) do this” energy and spirit.

And here is what Jon himself said about his class visit:

I love seeing the “a-ha” moments the students have during our conversations when you can tell they are really grasping a concept. Seeing the next wave of talented inbound marketers apply the concepts we think about every day at HubSpot is rewarding in a special way. — Jon Gettle

Magic Again! Mission Accomplished!

Again there are three (3) aspects to consider in this phase:

1. Struggle is necessary. The greater the struggle, the richer the learning experience.

2. Students at this level, once challenged, WILL rise to it.

3. The need for Inbound/HubSpot expertise is a key. Most of us who teach marketing in higher ed may be very familiar with Inbound and HubSpot, but we are not Inbound/HubSpot experts. HubSpot knows this, and we are working with the Academy Team right now to build out a process to help fill in this gap for classes everywhere.

Step #6: HubSpot Customer/Power User Visit

After all that has taken place this first half of the semester, it was time to lighten things up, take a larger view and see how it all fits, in application. In other words a Case Study. And what better way to do that than have a real Inbound user come visit to provide this real-world context?

In this case, we had a local Inbound/HubSpot power user, Steve Sheinkopf, CEO of Yale Appliance and Lighting in Boston to come to class. Students loved hearing from a master how it all works, and what can happen results-wise when it is done really, really well.

It’s one thing to learn from the Certification Course videos, another to get the under the hood view from a real customer. When it comes to Inbound and who sells the “Best Appliances” with the “Best Service” in the Boston area, no one does it better than Yale.

Dishwasher User Guide anyone?

Step #7: Do the Work

With just seven (7) weeks (out of 14) under our belts, we have gone through a couple of cycles, in terms of who does what? This was a surprise.

This class is made up of twelve (12) students.

SafeRide/WalkSafe is an app that you can use to alert your friends that you are in transit… Cab, Uber or Lyft… or even walking alone, and that you have arrived to your destination safely. If there is a problem, the app provides a way to alert the network you set up as well.

From a product positioning point of view, users in essence create a micro-community of like minded folks who watch out for each other, who have each others’ back. And all for just $.99 at the app store!

SafeRide is new. The space is cluttered. And in their wisdom, they adopted Inbound and HubSpot as their marketing tool of choice, and sought to focus on college students as their beach head, to use Crossing the Chasm lingo.

One more thing. SafeRide seeks to scale its user base, and after some initial discussion has basically agreed to offer students the app for free.

Multiple Class “Re-Orgs”

That said, here is the progress of how the teams re-organized themselves and the work progressed:

1. In the beginning… it was a free for all. Where to begin? What to do? Students broke into two (2) competitive teams of six (6) students.

The Student “Market” although a niche perhaps if you take into consideration the market as a whole for SafeRide, was still way too broad and hard to “personify” as is. So the question then became where was the most value for SafeRide in this population? And value as the students started to perceive it equates with safety and vulnerability, and what student communities are potentially most vulnerable, and would get the most value and benefit from using the SafeRide app?

As the students and teams digested the project, the first action item was to define the Personas with each team focusing on three (3) content offers, one for each of three (3) personas.

Some of the Personas students identified in this manner include:

●      Sororities

●      Fraternities

●      Women of Color

●      International Students

●      LBGTQ Communities

●      Freshmen

●      Tinder/Daters

●      Late Night Working Students

2. During the next phase, students organized themselves in teams of two (2), each focused on building out an individual persona, and seeing how for they could take it. It was in this mini-team format, that students were in during the struggle phase, when HubSpot consultant Jon Gettle visited.

As the process unfolded, it became clear that the class as a whole needed to focus on SafeRide and its objectives, all aligned with HubSpot Certification, and not be distracted on competing with each other. The oars needed to be moving in the same direction if this was going to work.

3. Coming Up. The Final Phase… The class is made up of students with a diverse range of talents. Some are content and creative types, some are analytical and SEO savvy. We also have a few Quants, sprinkled in with some Strategy and Account Managers with an Entrepreneur or two, and Student Leaders. Some are working professionally already. All are digital by nature.

One thing I was struggling with is how to organize these student resources to ensure efficiency and non-duplication of efforts, consistency in terms of messaging, look and feel and the developing SafeRide Brand, let alone meeting the Practicum requirements so that students who pass the HubSpot Software Certification Course Test can earn full HubSpot Certification?

Then it became obvious. Use the practicum to re-organize and break down functionally.

So once the class reconvenes after Spring Break, each student will be tasked to take responsibility for one (1) Practicum requirement, and then draw from the collective resource pool of class talent to assist in meeting their requirement.

Classes will then be in essence “floating meetings” to meet, collaborate and track and do work, to both ensure consistency and that all the requirements are met by semester’s end.

Three Next (3)Steps…

Here is what is coming up for the second half of the semester:

Step #8: HubSpot Expert Visit #2

Step #9: Going Live on HubSpot

Step 10: Improvement and Delivering Results!

It should be fun to see how this works… More to come

The Tesla Model S… Marketing and Innovation Together Means Stunning Success.

April 9, 2012

Even though the tepid response to current all-electric vehicles like the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf indicate otherwise.

Here is quick review of the state of electric vehicles, as of Spring 2012…

“General Motors has temporarily suspended production of the plug-in electric Chevy Volt because of low sales. Nissan’s all-electric Leaf is struggling in the market. A number of start-up electric vehicle and battery companies have folded. And the federal government has slowed its multibillion-dollar program of support for advanced technology vehicles in the face of market setbacks and heavy political criticism.” – NY Times, The Electric Car Unplugged, March 24, 2012

A number of years ago, a friend turned me on to a quote by Peter Drucker that goes something like this… “The two drivers of business growth are Innovation and… Marketing.” This got to me and is a big reason I chose to get in the game of marketing way back when.

At our core, we are a big fan of “new stuff.” We love the challenge of taking new ideas to market, of creating or exploiting demand for products people don’t even know they want, need or love yet.

You Say You Got a Revolution!

In this regard, today is a feast for marketers with a taste for taking innovation on. That’s because we are living in a period of radical change powered by exponential growth of a variety of enabling capabilities. The most notable example perhaps is Moore’s Law and how the number of transistors on a chip have been doubling every 18-months since 1965. Starting gradually, almost flat, after enough doubling, the curve starts to climb and then goes like an elevator straight up if this compounding effect can be maintained.

There are a number of other enabling technologies entering this supercharged phase simultaneously including Bandwidth, Storage and Information creation itself as indicated by the Digital Universe Study conducted by IDC in association with storage leader EMC will attest.

The Potential of Innovation: A Vacuum Effect That Pulls Innovation Forward

Add it all up and we are living in a revolutionary period that is driving the Potential of Innovation, on the grandest scale.

What do we mean here by Potential of Innovation? Simply put, it’s when a Capability has entered the latter or steepest phase of the exponential growth, and the deployment or Utilization of this potential is lagging well behind, as the chart above indicates.

Over the years I have heard technologists describe this gap as a vacuum, a vacuum that by its very nature must be filled… and from what I can tell, the best of what fills this empty space can be boiled down to vision, creativity and innovation.

One company that to us most exemplifies these characteristics is Tesla Motors and most especially the Model S, their new vehicle that is now gearing up for production. With over 7,000 advance orders already on the books for this gorgeous pure electric vehicle, we believe the Tesla S will be a game changer and the first vehicle to truly fulfill the promise of widespread adoption of a car that is not powered in any way by the internal combustion engine, New York Times notwithstanding.

Here’s why?

Again and again we hear about energy efficiency and “green values” relative to the environment and planet we all live in. There is no doubt there is a much higher level of consciousness than ever before. The only problem is, although we may expect or want companies to be good environmental citizens and follow best practices, we as consumers don’t necessarily want to pay extra for it. And for all the talk about energy-efficient cars, the reason we don’t have them now is that customers traditionally follow the money… lower gas prices means we accept the status quo, high prices mean that we cut back. In other words we cut down consumption when fuel cost is high, but invariably resort to our old gas guzzling ways when prices go down with no real alterations made to efficiency standards.

Electric Vehicles: Niche Category…

What this means is that true electric cars appeal by definition to the niche we call Early Adopters, who are into energy efficiency and green tech because they believe in it and are quite willing to pay extra and buy before anyone else to support this belief. And Hybrids? These vehicles aren’t disruptive in any way except that they get good and often great gas mileage. They do prove however there is an audience for energy-efficient products.

This is what makes what Tesla is doing very interesting.

Tesla’s first car the Roadster has been on the market for a couple of years and has sold, if the public account is accurate, around 10,000 vehicles at $100,000 each. These cars are not only pure electric, they are also a very fast, super premium product. In other words, the Roadster is a high performance (0 to 60 miles per hour in 3.6 seconds) sports car that can perform in a league with a Ferrari or a Porsche, that just happens to be electric.

As far as markets go, this is an extremely limited audience by any measure. However, the Roadster is a clever first step from a strategic marketing perspective, as it begins to alter the accepted perception that electric cars by definition don’t measure up to those powered by internal combustion engines.

One of the other objections to electric vehicles overall is that they necessitate new driving habits and expectations that American car buyers have been slow to accept, if at all. The perception is that electric cars are slow, don’t drive as well, cost more than they are worth, and what’s worse, make driving a structured activity posing the risk that the batteries may run out of juice mid trip. This is not a recipe for wide-spread adoption in the US market, certainly.

You can see this reality playing out right now with the Chevy Volt:

“Volt offers the fuel efficiency and forward-thinking you’d expect from Chevrolet.”

The Volt has a range of approximately 35 miles, when the gasoline powered generation system kicks in, so drivers don’t have to worry about getting stuck. It doesn’t look bad, but politics notwithstanding, with a pure electric range of 35 miles a charge, it is compromised and production has stopped, at least for now.

“the new car. 100% electric. zero gas. zero tailpipe.”

And then there is the Nissan Leaf.

The Leaf looks funny, and with a range of 65 miles seems too complex and different for the mainstream car buyer. Again, this is a compromised driving experience, something only an early adopter electric car buyer could and would love.

… Or Mainstream?

The Tesla S is clearly different.

Tesla Model S: Another Vehicle Entirely…

As you can see it’s beautiful. I’d put it next to a Lexus, Mercedes or Infiniti anytime. It also boasts great performance for a luxury sedan (0 to 60 in 5.6 seconds), can go up to 300 miles on one charge, and because the drive train is all-electric, it opens up cabin space and also lowers the center of gravity for a great driving experience. In other words Tesla S is great luxury sedan designed from the ground up that is electric and not the other way around.

In fact, most drivers can get back and forth to work for a week on one charge.

Marketing is a Key Enabler

The question now is, how can we position this vehicle so that the mainstream car buyer get’s it?  As it turns out Marketing has a set of tools that can help us figure it out.

Here is the current positioning from an outside looking in point of view:

Tesla is beautiful luxury car that performs better than any other sedan on the market, including Mercedes, Lexus or Infiniti. It (base model) costs $50,000 gets up to 300 miles a charge, costs a few hundred dollars a year to run and is all-electric.

This can be reflected in Tesla’s own taglines:

  • Performance for the 21st Century
  • Electric from the Ground Up
  • Zero Emissions. Zero Compromises.

Not bad…

The issue here is these core positioning tag lines are not connected directly, and the umbrella line of “Performance for the 21st Century” forces us to define what that means to us. And since there is no “Mainstreet” context for reference,  the “Electric from the Ground Up” with “Zero Emissions and Zero Compromises” then is clearly focused to Early Adopters, which is fine except that it misdirects the overall value proposition away from the mainstream audience and dilutes the position that is inherent to the product to engage the larger “Majority” audience and therefore fulfill its true sales potential.

Positioning for Success

Let’s use our double vector model to break this apart and see what we can do re-position the Tesla Model S for even greater success.

Vector #1: Luxury Sedans

In this case, the Market Alternative is Luxury Cars.

The singular “value vector” in red comes down to best luxury performance in a world dominated by leading brands such as Lexus, Mercedes and Infiniti among others.

With a gorgeous bottom to top design with acceleration from 0-60 in 5.3 seconds and amazing handling, the Tesla S can clearly outperform its gas-powered luxury sedan counterparts.

Vector #2: Electric Cars.

As we can see, there are some stunning differences especially related to design, but here we are looking for a more logical or mental key difference, and what really sticks out is the range. Model S gets up to 300 miles a charge, the others not even close. The Volt goes so far as to integrate a gasoline powered generator that kicks in after 30 miles, but that is an obvious compromise. Tesla does not compromise here. This is where Tesla’s no compromise position noted above obviously comes from.

“X” Marks THE Position… Where Differentiation Matters

Add the two up and Tesla can now make a statement like this:

Add it all up: The Tesla S is designed from the ground up to be a beautiful luxury sedan that just happens to be all-electric. And because we make no compromises, Tesla S not only outperforms any gas-powered sedan in terms of pick up and handling, it also gets up to 300 miles a charge so you drive everyday and never fill up at the pumps again.

Now let’s revisit our tag lines:

Nissan Leaf boils it down this way – “the new car. 100% electric. zero gas. zero tailpipe.”

Chevy Volt – “Volt offers the fuel efficiency and forward-thinking you’d expect from Chevrolet.”

Tesla Model S – THE Luxury driving experience with no compromises, no emissions and up to 300 miles per charge.

Bottom Line: Now, what car do you want to buy? And I am not just directing this question to Early Adopters, who will validate the product, but mainstream car buyers who will elevate this 21st Century Silicon Valley startup into a real player on the auto manufacturing stage with a product category that for the moment at least, is given up as lost.

Marketing and Innovation: Where Everything IS Possible

On one level this is monumental achievement, but for someone like Tesla’s Elon Musk, whose other company SpaceX actually launches stuff into orbit around the earth, this is a manageable task. Tesla clearly demonstrates that when marketing and innovation come together, everything is possible.

Music Is Free–Let It Loose… and Reap the Benefits. PART II

March 11, 2011

This is what the Grateful Dead’s sound system looked like in 1973, from an article in Rolling Stone entitled A New Life for the Dead: Jerry Garcia is Checking Cash Flow Charts.

The Dead was a growing enterprise as the scale of this, their very own sound system in 1973 indicates. The ballroom days are long gone now.

It was a monster — state-of-the-art in those days. This hippie band was really taking off even then, as the 1960’s, the decade of their birth was now long gone. The Woodstock Festival in 1969 showed the world that rock music had an enormous audience and in 1973 that potential was becoming realized. The music business was now a big, big business!

The ballroom scene that featured multi-night engagements in small intimate halls with capacities of up to a thousand or so, described in Part I, was over. The capacity of these venues was not enough to sustain the escalating costs and fees of touring artists any more.

And we all know that things were to get bigger yet.

What is clear, as the last posting suggested, is that the Dead were riding the wave… and were now in control of their business and destiny. Consciously or not, they were also creating best practice marketing, building an ever-larger base of community support and demand for their product – improvised music that reflected the moment, the connection with a co-creating audience, that was different each and every night.

If we rewind just a couple of years earlier back to 1969, I can share how it looked on the ground as some of this was developing. Imagine we are at Boston’s top rock club, the Boston Tea Party, formerly The Ark, a venue that could hold an audience of 1,500 or thereabouts. It’s New Year’s Eve 1969/70 and strangely enough, the Dead are playing in Boston, instead of their home base in San Francisco. What a way to end that action packed decade.

I am helping the band’s road crew load in. Lot’s of gear to move, and extra hands help. There is one fellow that stands out. He is dressed in western gear with a couple of leather bandoliers strung across his chest, looking like a space-age cowboy outlaw. Instead of bullets, however, the bandoliers are filled with little bottles of liquid, containing what I do not know.

Introducing, The Bear, aka Augustus Stanley Owsley, the Dead’s sound guy and from what I could see, much, much more. He is overseeing the PA system he designed, making sure everything is unloaded safely, placed where it needed to be and in the process of getting hooked up properly.

I had met Bear before and was nervous at first. His reputation preceded him and I knew he was very, very smart. Plus I was just a teenager and Owsley (let alone the whole band) were in their mid-twenties at least and much older than I was, so it was easy to feel intimidated. I was around grown ups, legends already thanks to Tom Wolfe’s Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, numerous articles in the early version of Rolling Stone, and Herb Greene’s iconic photos.

But Bear was cool. Maybe because I was helping out, I don’t know for sure, but I found he was very approachable and very friendly… he also exuded an air of authority, confidence and hipness just by his being. He didn’t need to talk too much.

The Sony 770 Portable Tape Recorder was state of art in the late '60s and as Owsley told me, a triumph of miniaturization. Check out the soundboard tapes from the era and you can hear just how good these machines... and the band were!

Two things I also noticed as we loaded in and set up for this New Year’s run. First, Owsley was carrying around, I remember this clearly, a couple of state-of-the-art Sony, I think they were Model 770, portable reel-to-reel tape decks. He used them to record each and every show right from a stage-side hook up.

They were sleek, portable devices, Sony’s top-of-the-line decks. The way Owsley talked about them, their bass response, wow and flutter and other such features, these machines were a triumph of miniaturization. I remember the price too. I lusted after one but the price was way out of reach, something like $800, which was a small fortune in those days.

The second thing I noticed happened right before show time. The Dead always took sound seriously and their monitor system, the speakers placed on stage so they could hear each other play, was very important to them.

I gather this was one of Owsley’s PA responsibilities and he would always reveal himself to the crowd as he adjusted things at the soundboard by the stage. He would bring one of those Sony tape decks (or two) down with him and plug them in to a junction box type of device.

Then something funny would happen. Every once in a while a fan would go up to him with a tape machine and ask if they could patch in. And it usually happened in one of two ways… some would ask nicely. And you could see it, if they did he would smile and help patch some of them in.

Others would demand this opportunity. These folks would be ignored. The pushier they got the more he ignored them, and at a certain point a burly member of the road crew would wander by and “gently” escort this individual away, without the sought after connection made.

What did it all mean?

Looking back, I now realize what I was seeing. This was an early version of band-accepted tape sharing at close range. And Jerry wasn’t the guy, nor was Phil or other band members. And it wasn’t the road crew either. At this point in time it was Mr. Bear himself.

At the time I didn’t understand what I was experiencing exactly, except that this was something different. After all no other band that I was aware of tolerated in any way, shape or form, fans taping “their” shows like this right off the soundboard, ever. Club maybe… fans, no way.

Whether it was by intent or lucky accident, now I know I was seeing what today marketers call Positioning in action.

Winning Hearts and Minds…

In simple English, Positioning is all about addressing the questions “How Are You Different?” and  “Why Should I Care?” in a clear and direct manner that cuts through the filters we all employ to drown out the marketing “noise” we are all exposed to each and every day. It is the key that opens the door to a customer/company/product relationship and a community interaction.

Differentiation is the “Mind” element of Positioning, and the Dead were different in all respects, including the music, which, since it was improvised, was indeed different each and every night.

The “Heart” side in this case is the connection audiences had and still have with the band’s music, the feeling it created in millions of fans all over the world that listened to and loved it then and do to this very day.

Sharing, whether by design or accident, supercharged this connection, this sense of Belonging and Community that are cornerstones to effective use of Social Media today.

The Dead, somehow found a way to position themselves to win both the Hearts and Minds of the people, and I saw it begin to happen right in front of me, in a hall that maybe held 1,500 folks with the person at the center of the whole thing, a couple of feet away.

That’s what Positioning is all about. It is not a battle as many think, but connecting in human terms the mental and emotional connections we have with people, with information, with products and services we let in through our filters and then, in the end, act on.

No box here!!! Courtesy of NASA.

We have all heard the expression, supposedly coined by Apple’s Steve Jobs, “In the box, out of the box doesn’t matter because, actually there is no box.” From what I can tell, Owsley had nothing to do with boxes and the results of how this helped drive the ever-expanding Grateful Dead community at that time, speaks for itself.

Luck, accident, invention? Conscious, strategic intent? Who can say? It was so long ago after all. However, there were real things going on. And one thing is sure, today we have the opportunity with the luxury of 20/20 hindsight to identify goodness where we find it, and the Dead is fertile soil that offers useful info, even marketing information that we can use today. Who knew? Now we do.

Music Is Free–Let It Loose… and Reap the Benefits. PART 1

December 3, 2010

Intro: Back to the Future

I recently tee’d up final group projects for my Principles of Marketing classes this semester. Since I started doing classes in 2002, I have had students attack the music industry and break up into teams that represent major or independent record labels with the goal to create marketing strategies to grow their business from these two perspectives.

This is no small feat when you consider that the music industry was disrupted by peer-to-peer and other technologies that have empowered listeners with capabilities to distribute and secure music for FREE, and it committed suicide by suing customers and refusing to adapt. Who could have predicted in 2002 that a computer company, Apple, would operate the most successful legal digital distribution system, iTunes? Extraordinary!

How do you compete against FREE?, and make money at the same time?, is the knotty challenge, and there could be no conversation about this in class without taking a look at the visionary band that understood it all so long ago, and built a business and marketing model that made it happen, and happen on a grand scale.

A Bit of Historical Perspective

In 1969 I had the great good fortune to get a job at the best rock club in town called The Boston Tea Party. How I got the engagement is the story for another posting. It was a winter weekend in January that I started and the band, a little combo from Britain, was making their debut in Boston.

For the next year and a half or so, I had what I would describe as a front-row seat to one of the most creative periods in music, at least in my lifetime. Artists I was able to see, hear and hang out with ran the gamut from Ricky Nelson, The Who, Jeff Beck and Pink Floyd to B.B. King, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Big Mama Thornton, Eric Clapton and yes, the Grateful Dead, the band that redefined marketing for me.

Since one of my duties was to help these bands load in (up two flights of stairs!!!) and set up their gear, I would really get to know the roadies, road managers and other behind the scenes facilitator of the music, as well as the artists themselves.

The Dead were unusual even then. They were as far out as you can go… very smart and very unique, obviously. More than anyone else they embodied the “be ‘hear’ now” hippie spirit… and expressed many dimensions through the music.

Their road manager whom I got to know a bit was a fellow named Owsley, otherwise known as the Bear. Bear was also a world-famous chemist and from what I now know, an all around Renaissance man and resident genius.

Looking back I don’t know how The Dead could play sometimes, especially once Owsley had done his thing. And yes, there were moments when they really couldn’t, like the first they night they followed the The Bonzo Dog Band (another story) in the Fall of ‘69. There was no way to follow this rock and roll musical circus, which was part of the extended Monty Python family, that had the audience freaking out and running for the exits by the time they finished.

Then there were the nights, when it all came together… and the music, created on the fly just for and with the audience, transcended everything. Electrifying. So when it worked, it worked… and when it didn’t, oh well, there was always tomorrow.

Hippie’est to Highest Grossing Concert Band of All Time: An Amazing Transformation

So how did The Dead go from hippie’est of the 1960’s hippie bands, to the highest grossing concert attraction of its era well into the 1990’s?, an era of Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson dare I say Neil Diamond, another huge draw?

Leesons for us all, 40-years later!

Of course it’s the marketing!

David Meerman Scott and Brian Halligan give us great insight into this with their recent book, Marketing Lessons from The Grateful Dead. They identified the genius level marketing developed and adopted by the band… best practice and learn’able lessons that are applicable to all products today.

I will argue that what The Grateful Dead understood, perhaps intuitively at first, was the sense of community they were a part of and had the power through the music to create, nurture and grow.

A 360-degree business perspective

As you can see from this pie chart, from the article in Rolling Stone*, A New Life for the Dead: Jerry Garcia is Checking Cash Flow Charts, from way back when in the November 22, 1973 issue, they were able to see themselves not only as a concert band, but as a business from a 360 degree perspective that included concerts, importantly, but also the totality of their business. They then created a variety of companies including a record label, a sound design and production company, a travel agency and much more to support the enterprise.

Building Demand

Around & Around It Goes: More demand = Larger Halls, More Equipment, More Gigs, Larger Overhead, Bigger Organization -- Repeat

At its center or core, was the live music itself, the concerts. As it turned out, this was where when the 60’s ended and the 70’s and beyond began, the overall Dead experience could be monetized as they played bigger and bigger concert halls.

They consciously realized that since each performance was basically improvised and different, it was possible that demand for tickets could be increased, where fans would come night after night, market after market, and invite their friends to share a unique musical experience each and every time.

The other, was the understanding that the music once played was no longer theirs alone. In other words, the notes once in the air, were no longer owned by the band or anyone for that matter. This was and still is counter-intuitive, in stark contrast to how the rest of the concert/music business views it – where the music in all forms is still considered the property of the artists themselves and fans are prohibited from “capturing” it in any and all forms, except for artist-authorized versions, and of course in our memories.

Live Music Creates a Connection between Artists and Audience

In creative terms, the one thing I learned by having had the opportunity to watch bands play multiple night engagements at the Tea Party over a two-year period was see how instrumental the audience is to the creative process.

There would invariably be a night, THE night when the connection between the artist and the audience would be at a more intense level. Bands were “on”, and we the audience didn’t just passively hear the music, we actively listened and a two-way connection was made that fed off and built on each other.

These were the nights we lived for and there was no doubt that the audience was integral to the creation of that night’s music. The Dead always understood and respected this connection and surrendered control.

Who Owns It?: Let “Remarkable Content” Loose…

Knowing this also allowed them to open up the concerts themselves freely to “tapers,” die-hard fans who wanted to record a living document of the show. These tapers, were then free to share the recording with friends and other fans as well, and in doing so foster and feed a community of friends and fans, who in turn would fuel more demand for the live, real thing and so on, round and round it goes, growing all the time.

Yikes!

You would think that considering their extraordinary success, other bands, and even products and services would surrender control and follow down this road. But sadly, this has not turned out to be the case, at least not yet.

…And a Community Flourishes

Today we need to understand that music is in a way like “information is free” (to quote Stewart Brand) and by that I mean not necessarily free relative to cost, but free in terms of being un-tethered by artificial restrictions. The marketer’s way is to let it loose, let the audience control it and in doing so give them a reason to share, to connect and then experience the real thing for themselves.

As the Dead proved with music, letting it loose unleashes the marketing power of the music (information), the more compelling and in today’s terms “remarkable”, the more the demand, the audience will grow and the more opportunities to monetize the total experience will emerge.

In today’s world with tools like social media where such a strategy based on collaboration with the audience aligns perfectly with transparency and customer control, who knows how much “further” the Dead could have and would have taken it!

Part II to come: How it all worked… From What I Could See, Owsley was The Guy who made it happen.

* I wanted to acknowledge the Rolling Stone: Cover to Cover, the DVD set that includes every issue, every page of Rolling Stone from 1967 to May 2007. You can read it all, as it happened, and see music and music journalism evolve from those heady days of the late 1960’s to today. If you love the music, you will love this!

I also wanted to call out the Grateful Dead Archive now housed at the University of California in Santa Cruz. They are in the process of digitizing massive amounts of the Dead’s memorabilia and making it available to all, in the same spirit that made this all happen to begin with.

Don’t Go Away Mad… Just Go Away: A Marketer’s Perspective to the Thorny Issue of Technology & Privacy and What to Do About It Now.

November 6, 2010

Last week there was an interesting article in the October 25, 2010 Wall Street Journal, A Web Pioneer Profiles Users By Name, about a web company called RapLeaf that takes data collection and web profiling to a new level.

Privacy in the 21st Century: A Brave New World

This is one of a whole onslaught of articles in the Journal and media overall regarding the apparent erosion of privacy, information and how it is and will be used in our 21st Century world. The information that is collected about us and our behaviors and now embedded on our computers and mobile devices for “harvesting” by companies intent on delivering ever more relevant marketing to us based on our actual search, purchasing and other trackable behaviors on and offline is astounding.

As a marketer, this is a nirvana like condition… a “brave new world “ of actionable, personally relevant information. Information that can be applied to customers one-to-one, with the idea of improving response rates for our online marketing programs. Better clickthroughs on PPC (pay per click) ads and banners, more targeted and specific messages to our prospects and customers. Eureka! The proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is at hand.

…Or 1984

And the “best” part that this is done automatically. We don’t have to do anything differently, it is done for us. I don’t know about you but this almost sounds more like Big Brother and “1984” when you put it like that.

So let’s circle back to what started this off… RapLeaf. Up until now, we have been told by Google, by Facebook, by ISPs, by Telecoms and all the rest that they collect anonymous data about us.

Fair enough, perhaps. At least we are used to it and may have a cookie (sounds so innocent doesn’t it) or a beacon implanted on our computers that may identify our habits, but not our names and e-mail addresses, we are number. That is until RapLeaf. They have collected it ALL… names and e-mail addresses and other contact info along with the rest.

Although RapLeaf claims otherwise, companies or other entities such as political parties and candidates use this information for highly targeted, pinpoint marketing programs, as the example in the Journal so clearly noted. This opens up an array of questions and issues that I am sure will be a part of our national (and international) conversation for quite some time, as these capabilities grow in every increasing frequency and at a faster rate beyond the traditional checks and balances, regulations, etc., that are now woefully out of date.

However our real fear, and possible solution, a marketing one at that, is a bit different.

A Marketing Point of View

Offering users the choice of how they wish to interact with technology increases ad relevance and value. Loyalty and other incentives for user determined levels of engagement further improves performance and reduces privacy concerns.

For an example of what I mean… if today you are a member of CVS’s ExtraCare® or similar loyalty program, and you swipe your tag at point of purchase, you may receive a seasonal discount offer for say, suntan lotion in the summer after every two or three purchases you make. Basic and static, these swipes are more about information gathering and over time CVS has acquired massive amounts of information this way.

Moving forward from now, it can and will be quite different. There is the new reality, currently in the process of being built.

Every time you interact with a CVS or any other retail environment, it will be tracked. And not only can the swipes be accessed in real time, so can your overall purchase behavior and credit card info as well. Tie this in to your personal info like mobile phone number, e-mail, web and actual addresses, now a whole new level of direct interaction is possible.

Let’s say you have allergies and every Spring you buy Claritin®, for example. That e-mail offer you may get, or ppc link on your Google or Bing search, or text message in March at the beginning of allergy season may feature, you guessed it Claritin… buy two, get one free. Or if the GPS on your cell is activated, you are in a CVS store around that time and isn’t that ironic, there is that bar code on our smartphone for you guessed it, that very same offer delivered to you in real time, right at the point of sale. At some point you may be walking by a Walgreen’s and…

Fantastic! So what is the difference between the realities of Brave New World or 1984?

The Customer-Oriented Solution: Transparency, Control and Choice…

In the CVS example, you freely give your information in exchange for discounts, relevancy and other benefits in exchange. There is a clear incentive. In the other, it is done to or for you without your consent or control, as we saw in the Journal article.

What about relevance?

Clearly having relevancy defined for you, sometimes doesn’t always work as intended:

  • Remember that baby present you purchased for your niece or nephew a while back? Isn’t it weird to have sponsored links for baby carriages and disposable diapers follow you around, even if your kids are off to college, or you never had any?
  • Or if you do have kids. One way or another they have figured out how to work around the parental controls and now you are getting all kinds of e-mails, and links to crazy sites you would never visit in a million years. Ooops.

We know that one of the hallmarks of Web X.0 and the Inbound Marketing trend is control, customer control. Transparency in being up front and offering choice supports this reality. Permission as we now know it, giving your permission to engage or accept a newsletter or such, is only step one.

We argue that we need to go further. As you can see in one of our earlier blog postings Hulu Pulls a Lulu, there is a strong bottom line marketing rationale to offer customers more control, more often.

And if choice and choice were adopted side by side with the latest information processing capabilities of say a RapLeaf, we can see that even more value could be created, not less as it may appear, and in a manner that does not conflict with the issue of privacy, in fact a manner that respects it.

How is that?

Choice = Value

Remember the old axiom from Direct Marketing 101? The one that says the greatest cost and lowest return is in the initial “getting the hands raised” action. Say you spend $1 million to reach an audience of 1 million people. The cost is $1 per person, and you get a 1% response or 10,000 people act. The cost per response is $100. It’s expensive.

Now you a pool of 10,000 folks that have already acted and declared an interest in you and your product. Working that audience not only costs less, but since they are aware of you and have already expressed an interest the product or service, response rates can go up, often significantly, as the relationship develops, if you engage this very valuable audience of folks that have “raised their hands”.

One argument I have heard is that if you offer choices, you in fact limit the impact of your message to only those that act, and slash your response rates. This is valid I suppose, especially if say you trying to go viral with a compelling white paper and force readers to register first. Response rates can drop to almost zero.

The question is does it have to be either/or?

First. Using the direct response model and our technological quest for more marketing relevance, it may be true that overall response rates go down if active choice is offered, but at the same time shouldn’t the value of the response go up? If I choose to view automobile ads, or better yet, brand-specific auto ads, aren’t I self-selecting and indicating my possible interest?, and doesn’t that have higher value than just a general click through on a banner, a sponsored link on Google, or other such online device?

The next step of course is to learn if I am a potential buyer, and if so, when? But isn’t that easier to assess once our interest is established?

And if a short-term buyer I am not, could there still be longer-term value as a quote unquote lead. I may know someone, or have a child looking for a vehicle, or I may be in the market later. In other words, underneath the choice to receive information, is my customer initiated response, opening the door to develop a long-term relationship.

To continue with the car example, information and technology could add value, as an added layer on top of my choice levels. It could offer me a variety of car options using what it “knows” about me… to validate brand, type, features, and my needs, and then facilitate the most appropriate, highest value interaction with the product. This way the technology is my information partner so that I get the most relevant information, because I choose it to do so.

Re-Positioning Latest Technologies as Enablers to More Relevant Information

In this case the technology is an enabler helping me get information I want and need.

What if we don’t want and choose not to actively interact, and therefore want the technology to do it for us, to serve us messages and links that the system identifies as relevant, much in the way Google does based on our search query today?

Create a mechanism to let us choose this option.

If we want to be creative, we can even use a CVS ExtraPoints/loyalty program as a model. Imagine if incentives are in play in return for the freely given exchange of information? This recognizes and provides value in exchange for levels of privacy that in essence are “surrendered” and offers the opportunity to deepen the relationship over time, at the same time.

And of course, there will be those that won’t, don’t or can’t respond. That may be the subject of another posting.

Let’s take this approach to another hot spot that has received a lot of attention relative to its privacy policies lately, Facebook, the 800-lb super gorilla of social networks.

Under Mark Zuckerberg’s leadership, Facebook has consistently attempted to stretch the privacy envelope in order, it appears, to monetize as marketing intelligence, the deep, deep profiles, Likes, Friends and other information it has on it’s users. Again and again we have seen sudden changes to privacy controls and policies, and more feature introductions like the ill-fated “Beacon” program that would have been used to create high value information that could be sold at a premium to third parties.

What has astounded me over time is:

  • how people haven’t fled the network as these initiatives were imposed, often without warning
  • how Facebook’s users have pushed back when they felt privacy envelope had stretched too far, and
  • how Facebook has responded, pulling back as it attempts to monetize the information on hand.

I would have thought users would leave… but we didn’t and apparently don’t. And the question remains, knowing that this robust info about us exists, how can Facebook marry in a cool, mutually beneficial way the information it has with marketers that still gives us as consumers control and allows us to determine the levels of relevance we want?

One simple way could be to add a profile section specifically for marketing purposes. Invite us to participate. The promise: relevant communications between companies looking to match their products to people with expressed interests with products or services of that type. The value of the interaction to all parties jumps here.

Facebook could get slicker and stickier create a platform where we get points when we click, when we share, and when we buy or act. This way the user could be recognized as an influencer driving word of mouth and/or a customer.

More Choice = More Relevance = More Value

In return there could be an interaction where we are actually offered a dynamic menu of advertising choices based on our profiles and technology where we then get to choose (raise hands) for relevant products with a higher likelihood of interest.

By the way, couldn’t this type of thing work with Google too?

With such a mechanism, Google could engage with us when certain potential buying patterns emerge with our queries. Kind of a super Pay Per Click.  “Are you looking to buy… a car “ type of dialog could help Google serve up even more relevant links based on an actual declared interest. This could even have an impact on organic search as well, where a simple added interaction would help Google fine tune their search results to truly match our needs immediately and over time.

Couple this with the semantic web capabilities coming up and this enhanced search capability could add even more value to search, which could help offset inevitable maturity of the product.

And yes, choice does apply to YouTube, Hulu and so many others. Give us choice and the value of our information and interactions increase and privacy recedes to the background, as long as it is treated with respect, which includes transparency and security. Under these circumstances, a RapLeaf offering may not be so intrusive after all.

One last thing… please talk to us in plain language. Have you seen the electronic terms and conditions for say Apple’s App Store? The basic agreement is 55 screens long. Who reads this? Not us mere lay folk.

Maybe we need to agree in the form in legalese, but give us a one-pager in every day language please. And if you make an update to the terms, give us the bullet’ized version summarizing changes in plain language again. Then when we agree, especially if it is in relation to control, transparency and such, we know what we are doing, and as such have added the value of conscious choice to the action, which adds true marketing value to the relationship overall.

Toyota and Tiger… Brand Collapse or Rebirth or Both?

March 25, 2010

We have all heard the news…. 8+ million Toyota automobiles are recalled due to a variety of malfunctions; and everything and more than we wanted to know about the many loves of Dobie Gillis… oops, I mean Tiger Woods.

Toyota, a brand synonymous with quality and reliability for decades appears to be imploding right before our eyes. Their war room/siege mentality, ready to rebut “any and all” negative customer comments strategy does not resonate with the public or in any way appear authentic. Whether it’s the floor mats, the gas pedal or of course, customer error, yes, the company is sorry, so sorry for injury or death. Software, hardware issues? Apparently Toyota can’t replicate some of these problems, therefore it appears they do not exist, or isn’t it our fault anyway?

And does this calm our fears?, and support the brand promise of quality and reliability?

I don’t know about you, but I feel a deep and shocking sense of uncertainty with Toyota’s response. And I own two Camry’s, although of a vintage before these apparently unstable “drive-by-wire” electronic technologies we adopted. Yikes!

Talk about a brand conflict, reliability versus uncertainty.

This is a huge problem for Toyota. And a major inconvenience at best for customers worldwide. We have to bring our cars in for a fix we aren’t sure will solve the problem. Oh, and now what about the resale value of these cars? Toyota was noted for high resale value… who wants to buy a used and potentially unsafe Toyota now at any price? Not me! You?

And if that isn’t enough, Toyota appears to be diddling. You can sense it, and as some of their internal e-mails we hear about attest, their approach is to delay, stall and of course, minimize the cost of the damage.

Their ads add insult to injury. “Thanks for sticking by us,” they intone… and to “thank you, we are offering incentives like 0% financing so you can buy a new one.”

Just what I want! Even though you, Toyota can’t replicate them, these issues may still exist. People have died, cars have very publically careened out of control for who knows why, and resale value at least for now has gone down the tubes. And to top it all off, I have to suffer the inconvenience to bring in my car to get a fix that may or may not take care of the problem, and you thank me by trying to sell me a new car!

This is outrageous and insulting. Add it all up and what this says to me is that Toyota has lost touch with the power of their brand. And such moves like these are damaging it, perhaps permanently.

Tiger has a similar problem. Although perhaps not on the same scale as Toyota, he is a very public, well known brand, like it or not, and a multinational one at that. For many people Tiger is golf itself and a $ multi-billion corporation burnished with a champion’s glow…. He and his handlers positioned him as a problem-solving icon able to take on and beat any challenge that may come his way. Until now.

We now know this is may, I repeat may, be limited to the golf course and in the “perception is reality” world of brand recognition, but certainly not in real life.

I will argue that Tiger’s final lot as a brand is not yet set in the public mind. Yes, he is certainly human, a junk yard dog perhaps, but is this unusual? And yes, a number of high profile sponsors like Gillette and Accenture have pulled away.

Questions still linger that if answered authentically and humanly, could likely restore his brand image to be even more powerful than before.

Here’s how.

Tiger himself proclaimed at his highly staged news conference a few weeks ago that he thought he was above it all and could behave as he wished… that the rules the rest of us follow didn’t apply to him.

He also told us that he understands the hurt he has caused and the error of his ways and that he will do what it takes to be a better person. Great stagecraft!, and positioning…. I am working hard to be a better person. Who can throw the first stone with such a revelation?

So that is where we are.

Two powerful brands under attack, one disintegrating right before our eyes, the other, a work in progress, the jury still out. What kind of marketing thinking and strategy could be applied to turn these brand conflicts around?

Let’s look at Toyota first.

Toyota’s issue is that they appear to be self-absorbed and cheap, focused on cost containment and damage control, going so far as to lay the blame on those pesky customers that are us.

This is not the time for that type of non-marketing approach by an automobile company. Audi famously blamed their customers in the 80’s for cars that apparently shifted into gear on their own. They had to change the names of their models and literally re-build demand for their vehicles from scratch, a costly process that took them out of the game for years.

In this case, assuming Toyota is doing everything in its power to solve the issues, known and unknown, the company needs to remember that it’s the brand connection and it’s relationship with customers that matters most. That is where real long term value is.

I am not privy to the details but over time, the value of the Toyota brand, as the perhaps soon to be world’s former #1 auto maker, has to be in the $ hundreds of billions, or even more.

From an integrated, marketing to win perspective, Toyota needs to take a two-pronged, pedal to the metal communications approach:

1. Reassuring the public that the cars are safe, and

2. Acknowledging customers’ inconvenience and uncertainty along with the hassles of bringing cars to the shop entails.

In other words, they need to be bold in terms of solutions, it will cost, and the investment is worth it!

As far as reassurance is concerned, good news or bad, in today’s instant, social media world, transparency is essential. Customers need to be in the loop to see for ourselves what the company is doing to make us safe again.

It easy today to take us the labs and testing grounds, give us Q&A and other access to the engineers and scientists, etc. Let us see that no stone is being left unturned and at the same time show us the operational excellence the company is famous for, in action.

And as far as customer inconvenience is concerned, Toyota needs to honor the value of our time, let alone the anxiety we feel, and understand it in the context of brand value as well.

Once understood, the company then needs to then honor us with something tangible. That means, Toyota if you are listening, setting up drive in check stations for all post 2002 cars and then, give us something in return like a free oil change or service, something of value that honestly recognizes the value of our time and our loyalty. Giving to receive is the operative principle here.

I can tell you now, that a great deal on a new Toyota feels cynical and indeed is NOT it! And if they were clever, perhaps Toyota could partner up with say a Sirius/XM or other outside entity and offer a free 3-month subscription or something like that… because “you care… care about us, your valued customers!”

On the Tiger front.

His solution is a bit more under his personal control, but no less impactful. He can no longer claim the cover of privacy to be left alone… the genie is out of the bottle and won’t fit back in. And yes, just like the Wizard of Oz, we now have peered at the man behind the curtain, and see all too well that he is human like the rest of us.

Now that Tiger is off the pedestal and the announcement has been made that he will indeed play at the upcoming Masters Tournament, it comes to two things again:

1. His performance on the course, and

2. His performance on the course.

What do I mean?

On one level, we will expect him to play well and perhaps even win. He is to many, Golf after all. But we also expect that he has learned from his self-induced embarrassment, that he is, in fact, in the process of becoming that better person. This means that no, we don’t necessarily want him to be more approachable, but we need to know he can perform in this “better,” more realistic and human manner.

So how does this play out?

First, that he handles the catcalls, the embarrassing hoots, questions and other assorted unscripted realities that will inevitably come his way with humor and poise. That he not dodge but roll with it in a manner befitting a champion. In other words, the focus and drive (no pun intended!) that has made him the champion he is, also extends to his personal improvement, and that he is a winner here too.

If he does a Brat Pack-type, moody thing and wrap a club or two around a tree or smash a camera, punch someone out or otherwise behave poorly, or that he sets up an impenetrable barrier so no one can get near and utter a bad word, he will be positioned by his own actions as an arrogant “bad person” which will forever tarnish the best golfer, iconic status that he has already achieved.

If you don’t believe me, remember 2004 presidential candidate Senator John Kerry? Like him or hate him, that wishy-washy answer he gave at the Grand Canyon regarding whether he would change his vote for sending troops to Iraq, knowing the original premise of “Weapons of Mass Destruction” was inaccurate, forever labeled him as… well you know, a Flip Flopper, irrespective of his many impressive achievements.

The jury is still out on this one, at least for the moment. One thing is certain, the embarrassment and hurt will fade over time, but the position he takes and fosters in the public eye through his next set of actions will stick, and the choice in the end will be his. So what will it be, great golfer and jerk, or very human champ for the ages. What would you choose?

And I will guess that if Tiger does take the high road and shows us he has or is mastering his demons like he has mastered his sport, will Accenture, Gillette and other more lucrative sponsorships be far behind? It is clear that the “championship, do anything image” would be more real this time, and well earned to boot.

Move forward Toyota… Go get ‘em Tiger!

The “Bucks” Ends Here…

June 10, 2008

One of the core principles of our 5 Laws at Marketing 2.0 Win is the Law of Process = Chaos. What this principle says is in simple terms is that process in the service of strategy is a good thing, however if it is the driver or central organizing principle of a company’s marketing or in this case public face, take care, take very good care.

We can see this playing out on a grande scale right in front of our eyes with coffee giant Starbucks. After an incredible run of phenomenal growth on a global scale, we see the symptoms… declining stock price and unhappy investors clamoring for relief, bringing visionary Howard Schultz back into the CEO role at the company. His self proclaimed goal… to help the company get back to its core… the coffee/community experience that in today’s Starbucks’ corporatized environment seems lost.

How? Howard himself gave us a couple of examples… of this disconnection: fresh-locked packaging, where you can’t smell the product anymore. And “goof proof” espresso machines. Machines that make it simple and fast to “build” a specialty drink, while put a wall between the customer and barrista and taking the artistry out of the drink making process.

I agree with that these are customer disconnects. But do they disconnect with the brand that Starbucks is?, enough so, so as to flatten sales in existing stores, like we have seen with Wal Mart, Dell and others?

In this case I am going to argue the answer is NO. The issue is not a brand conflict here.

Yes, these changes matter to some degree… but they are fixable and incremental issues, touch points that need to be aligned, indeed, but not a commodity-busting strategy that they really need to fix the problem.

You can see this in action in the Got a Great Idea/Tell Us, community function that now is front and center on their web site. I love the concept. Surrender control and open up the floor for your customers to offer their insights and then respond back, with action.

Some popular customer generated ideas… Free WiFi, a Loyalty card (buy 10/get one free) and others are incremental ideas… and sound hardly new or radical. My advice… implement them. However, don’t expect they will turn the tide.

The real issue is that the Starbucks concept is now approaching the mature phase of the product lifecycle, as these ideas so clearly demonstrate. The reality is that the Starbuck’s concept is now a commodity, which in fact the company with its “goof proof” drink making process helped bring about. This means that price, lower price and greater non-differentiated competition are the business drivers.

Look at it this way. MacDonald’s is now rolling out espresso/specialty drinks. Dunkin Donuts, one of the big winners in the Starbuck’s phenomenon, has been offering these lower cost specialty drinks for the past couple of years. Soon enough it seems every fast food chain will offer them. So now what?

Let’s take a closer look at Dunkin Donuts, because here is where the solution lay. At the outset, I admit it, I am a Starbuck’s regular. It is not my favorite, but with locations it seems at every corner nationwide, Starbucks delivers a consistent and premium product that meets my expectations almost every time.

Last week I offered to make the office coffee run, and one of my colleagues ordered not a Starbuck’s but a Dunkin Donuts coffee, medium vanilla. It was then that my mind was blown.

We know that Dunkin is not a premium coffee but a more everyday product, a blend I am told of Arabica and other less expensive coffees. It is a lower wholesale cost, more generic product. But when I saw the price for the cup at Dunkin which was $1.79 or in essence $.10 less that a similar size Starbuck’s, I was floored… generic product at a premium price! The folks at Dunkin must be smiling all the way to the bank! Thank you Starbuck’s!!!

So Starbuck’s is in an interesting position… its premium product is being attacked by generic products and commoditized… forced to concede on price or lose customers, because as we know, you can get a specialty drink anywhere… for less!

What is Starbucks to do?

Howard Schultz, if you read this… incremental, process-oriented activities focused on your existing customers are good but in fact cannibalizing, because these kinds of activities are pulling revenues from your existing audience. I will argue that the way forward in this case is to reposition Starbucks and counterattack to build market share.

In other words, Loyalty is important, but it comes at a cost and won’t drive growth. Look at it this way, “free WiFi” and “buy 10 get one free” are tactics and I will argue not nearly enough. Nor is “watch the barrista” or “smell the coffee.” Although appropriate, these tactics do not a growth strategy make.

Just as Dunkin and others offer what we can argue is an inferior product at a better price thanks to you, Starbucks now needs to execute a jujitsu strategy and show consumers in simple and clear terms the added value of their premium product over the competition. This is a classic re-positioning strategy.

So… ladies and gentlemen, the drum roll please… time for the Pepsi… ooops, the Starbuck’s challenge. Put your product up against the competition in “blind” tastings and build a campaign around it… Wow! This really is better!

As it stands, an espresso is an espresso is an espresso, and it will stay that way until Starbucks does something about it. That time, I will argue, especially if I was an investor and I am not, is NOW. And by doing so, the company can carve out MacD’s and Dunkin customers who in fact are ready to appreciate the difference premium makes. The key is to connect the dots positioning wise and make it clear to them what this difference is where the rubber meets the road, and for Starbucks that is in what is a better tasting cup of coffee every time.

Are Ad Words Dead?

April 8, 2008

We have seen the headlines over the past few months… “signs of click recession!” or “decelerating clicks!” Obviously these are referencing Google and are referring to ComScore’s recent monthly data reports showing decline in the number of times consumers clicked pay per click ads that accompany Google search results.

We can infer from the headlines that journalists and the powers that be may attribute this to environmental factors as a result of a slowing economy. Others say this is the result of a conscious effort by the company to trim clicks so that they can limit the supply and charge more.

We can go back and forth about the cause, but it clearly appears that advertisers, after years of consistent and meteoric growth, may be getting fewer sales per click, which is bad news indeed for all concerned.

Marketing 2.0 Win has its own theory, borne out of let me say up front non-scientific research in my work as an adjunct professor of marketing at Emerson College in Boston. I see it in the classroom all the time, the search-based PPC ad platform is becoming mature and students (vis a vis consumers) aren’t noticing or responding to them as they have before.

Remember Banner Ads? Or Flash-based web site intro’s? How cool they seemed… then, and how they don’t now?

Thus is it may be with search-based adwords. When we first encountered them, they raised the bar for relevant ads, based on what we were searching for at the current moment. Google not only delivered us better search results than the others, the search based ads as often as naught mirrored our interest at that instant and offered us the potential to find best price for products we may be seeking. We were interested, we noticed, we clicked through and we bought, finally making the long sought after promise of the web to deliver relevance to individuals a reality.

No, don’t me wrong, Google is not resting on any laurels. They are a great innovating company and their acquisitions of YouTube and DoubleClick prove this. However, YouTube even with huge numbers of visitors is still hard to monetize, and the DoubleClick approach to knowing where you have been, as well as where you are in order to make better inferences leading to more relevant ads, well this opens up a whole Pandora’s Box of issues from privacy to trust that will only get more intense and slow things down.

In our world view, if relevance is king then as the Law of Surrender = Victory dictates, control is key… customer control. To make it simple, ask the customer what they want. Offer them a way to choose from a menu of ads or create a profile that can be changed at any time, which can then help serve up ads on search, on You tube, Hulu or wherever, that will be more relevant. For example, when is a car ad most relevant? Probably when you are in the market. Give customers the ability to declare their interest.

By doing this two things happen. 1. With the customers help and control, ads will be more relevant and targeted, and 2. The more opportunities the customer has to raise their hands, the more likely a prospect they will be, which will translate into higher conversions and sales.

So, has search-based advertising had its day? You be the judge. However from where we sit there is no doubt that the novelty may be wearing off and that the quest for relevance is ongoing. In Marketing 2.0 Win, it is certain that if companies do more to bring customers into the mix, relevance will follow, which in the end creates even more opportunities for growth.